AdAge Misinterprets CMO Study, Demonstrates an Immodest Brag

Ian Lurie
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Advertising Age would’ve gotten a ‘C’, at best, in my college analysis class. But they get an ‘A’ in bad bragging.

Ad Age writer Mya Frazier just published an article titled ‘CMOs Rapped for Having Zero Impact On Sales‘. Pretty heady stuff, right? Great link and reader bait, that’s for sure.

She opens the article with this line:

“Pay attention, CMOs: If you’ve been fighting for more influence with top management, hide this publication — now.”

I’d better read this!

She goes on to quote a study in the Journal of Marketing in January of 2008. Her interpretation: CMOs have no impact on a company’s financial performance.

Important stuff! Too bad she got it wrong.

You can read the whole study here, in PDF format, and reach your own conclusions, but Mya’s analysis is flawed. Here’s why:

The study authors state that CMO presence did impact a company’s differentiation in the marketplace. They also point out that a CMO increases shareholder perception of the firm (also known as stock price).

And the authors emphasize that while they couldn’t measure a direct financial impact, they also didn’t measure institutional impacts: There could be a ‘long tail’ between CMO arrival and financial benefits, as the CMO gets the whole organization thinking more about marketing.

Halfway through the article, Mya finally mentions that the study authors “admit the study is limited because it focuses on financial-performance metrics… and not brand equity, and both were quick to offer caveats to the conclusion.” But her clear intent in the piece is to roil up controversy for the sake of controversy.

That’s not modest bragging. It’s more like yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theatre for the sake of getting some attention.

Update: David has another take on the article on his blog.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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